Hello, what is a tablet?

Ashish Bhatia | Print Edition: December 2011

For the Rip Van Winkles who have been living under a rock these past few months, a tablet serves as a flat, superslim, sub-1 kilo, instant-on computer featuring a 7- to 10-inch touchscreen that can be used for on-the-go web browsing, e-mail, e-book reading, audio-video multimedia playback, as well as general applications and gaming. The real wind under this wave of tablets is the success of the Apple iPad. The acceptance of this game-changing device has spurred PC computer makers to rustle up tablets that boast more features than the iPad in terms of hardware-like USB and HDMI ports, SIM card/calling capabilities, and Adobe Flash support.

The much tom-tommed iPad aside, the primary contenders for your paws are a slew of Google Andorid slates-lead by the Samsung Galaxy Tab , the Motorola Xoom, the Acer Iconia. And of course the BlackBerry PlayBook from RIM. As many as 50 shiny new tablets have been spotted strutting their specs at the Computex Expo 2011 in Taipei earlier this year.

Up ahead, heavyweight Microsoft Windows is girding its loins to muscle into the tablet market. So, if you aren't preening, peering and poking at one of these slick little slates already, trust us, your phalanges will be prodding one soon.

Let's get one thing straight: while a tablet is the new Jeeves and meant to get a lot of stuff done, its is not meant to replace your laptop. Yes, tablets are incredibly compact, more convenient to carry, perfect for media consumption, are getting affordable, and make fabulous travel (and bed) mates. Yet, buying one doesn't mean you can dump your laptop. Period. Ask us why, and we'll say just one thing: work productivity. There are those who think that simply yoking a fancy, portable, wireless keyboard to a tablet will be sufficient to mitigate those infamous typing-on-a-fiddly-touchscreen woes.

True, if it's just word processing tasks you're looking at. But try working numbers on a spreadsheet and you'll realise what we are talking about. Or try making a slightly complex presentation, for instance. While you can accomplish both tasks on a tablet, it is not as easy as you'll find it on a laptop or PC. Not yet. So where do these slabs- unarguably the most lustedafter objects of geekiness in the world today-fit into your scheme of gadgetry? Dubbed "more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smartphone", these edgy game changers give you on-thego web browsing, e-mail, e-book reading, audio-video multimedia playback, gaming-and fringe, if-you-must computing. Tablets also work perfectly for social networking, IM and video calling/chatting. You can easily do without the laptop for the aforementioned. There's no denying that backed by longlasting battery life tablets-lead primarily by Apple iPad-have managed to create a whole new gadget paradigm for themselves in a short span of under two years. But a laptop still remains the more compelling and versatile option when it comes to work...

That, at least is the story so far. There is no saying how soon innovation and invention changes all this and laptops go the way of the dino.

The Future of the Tablet

When it comes to crystal-ball gazing, the sky seems to be the limit for tablet. Apps like Zite, Flipboard, Early Edition, NYT as well as TV broadcasting and a host of news and information sources have already shown us how amenable the form factor of the tablet is to portable reading and viewing. As these slabs get skinnier and skinner, they will also gain flexible displays. So one fine day you could find yourself carrying merely a lightweight foldable screen that you tuck into your pocket but replete with all the functionalities--nay, more--of a tablet.

Just when everyone had written off the the pen stylus on touchscreen devices, it seems to be making a return. Cases in point: The monster screened Samsung Note 'smartphone' and, of course, the HTC Flyer. As hardware, operating systems and user interfaces get more and more refined it may soon be possible to write on the screen virtually as comfortable as you scribble on paper.

As they get more and more common place, you should see tablets also getting more durable and rugged. Or at least the availability of protective cases that prevent them from damage if you drop them.
What about tablets that never run out of battery juice? Why ever not? We've all heard of harnessing solar power, have we not? So it's not at all an unfeasible thought. And then, it is also possible that in a few years time you could be assembling your tablet-just as you can a PC.

As Lenovo has shown us with the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid and Motorola with the Atrix smartphone, the chances are high that the tablet could be a detachable component of your laptop. So don't be surprised if you see an MacBook Air with a detachable screen that works as an iPad.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos

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